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What’s the most important thing a Christian can do? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

the most important thing a Christian can do

What is the most important thing a Christian can do? There’s lots of Christian self-help books that tell us how to enjoy life more, do better, know more about theology, etc.

But what’s become infinitely clear in my years of trying to be a Christian is how easily my heart floats away from Christ. It’s as if I’m a ship charting the waves under the direction of my Navigator. Then, every night, I return to shore and tie myself to the dock.

In the morning, I wake disoriented and moored in selfish desires for food, fun, or additional rest. I need some way to daily wake myself up, to remove the bondage of my fleshly nature and get back out to sailing with my Lord.

What God says in his Word is that prayer, worship, and the Scriptures are the tools God has given us to jump-start our hearts and minds.

Maybe my emotions are slower to respond, and my fleshly nature more deeply rooted than others, but I’ve found that the bare minimum I need to remain rooted in Christ—to walk through the day with a sense of his presence and power—is a full hour with him every morning.

Two hours is better, especially with additional time throughout the day and in the evenings. This is when I find my joy in him begins to explode, and I feel truly free.

But this self-discovery came about through years of walking with Christ.

After about a year of spending my first hour with Christ, I enjoyed my time with him so much that I wanted more. I started to spend my first two hours with him, and then I wanted more, so I spent some of my additional free time in dedicated prayer and worship.

You have to understand: I’m a lazy millennial. I have a short attention span, and grew up on video games and fast-food.

I am not the “type of person” to do this. And yet I found that time with my Jesus became my most treasured and enjoyable time throughout the day.

For an entire year, as I continued pouring myself into Christ, I felt (for the first time in my life) the peace that passes all understanding. I felt perpetual, pervasive Joy. I walked around with a genuine smile plastered on my face.

I was so happy it was ridiculous. This is not a joke. I’m not making this up. This really happened.

Then I got really busy, and went through some tough times with family, and I let that time slip, and my joy slipped with it.

I believe this is because Christ made us to desire and enjoy him. He satisfies me and gives me more joy than anything else possibly can.

The troubling fact is that it’s so ridiculously easy to forget this.

Our relationship with Christ is more intimate than our relationship with our spouses can ever be.

His life is literally pouring inside of us. Our spouse’s life can’t do that. We become one with Jesus spiritually and emotionally in a way we never can with any other person.

God promises, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

If you’re walking around feeling uninspired, spiritually dry, or distant from God, consider the amount of time you spend in Him every day. Then measure that against the time you spend willfully tending other desires in your heart.

Be honest: what’s that ratio actually work out to be?

Unless you have a clinical issue that’s profound and pervasive (such as a high level of physically-induced depression), I can virtually guarantee you the ratio of God-time to other-time is alarmingly low.

Let’s not blame God for our own infidelity.

Let’s make certain that if our emotions are in a bad place, we are at least getting on our knees, throwing away our distractions (tv shows, video games, books, or even this blog), and pouring ourselves into the heart of Christ until we feel the fire of his Spirit consume our bones.

Stay there with him until you feel it. Because you WILL feel it. Even in fifteen minutes your entire mindset will probably be turned on its head.

When’s the last time you spent 15 minutes in focused, thanksgiving-filled prayer?

I don’t say these things to encourage a sense of slavish religiosity. But consider this…

No two people will feel they have a warm and intimate relationship together without consistent and frequent quality time together. Positive time together grows a relationship.

God made us primarily to love him and be with him. The most important element of living the Christian life is spending time enjoying Christ.

So, are you spending time enjoying being with him?

If you want to grow spiritually, throw yourself into the heart of Christ. Abide in him and let him renew your mind. Then, and only then, will you walk by the power of his Spirit, in faith in him, who is your fortress, your sustainer, your life.

You will never regret the time you pour into Christ.

PRAYER

Lord, THANK YOU for always being there to listen to us. For always being willing to spend time with us, for always answering our call, and for being our comfort, our fortress, our support, our joy, our peace, our everything. Help us to remember the most important thing a Christian can do is be with you. We dedicate our lives to you anew right now. Take our time right now as an offering. And draw us deeper into you. Sustain us by your Spirit, amen!

DIG DEEPER

Take the next fifteen minutes and spend it in concentrated, thanksgiving-filled prayer. Maybe take it in five minute chunks, and set a timer. For the first chunk, thank him for who he is, and what he offers to us. You’ll probably repeat yourself a lot. That’s totally fine. Then spend the next 5 minutes worshipping him, either in prayer or by singing. Then spend the last 5 minutes thanking him for everything he has given you in your life. And consider dedicating one day a week as a Sabbath.

Pastor Goes to Prison? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

I didn’t think the Pastor would end up in prison. I just thought he was a jerk with a dark vibe about him. In retrospect it makes sense. Sexual predators are normally power-hungry. It’s more about control.

And that lust for control showed through when, from the pulpit, he angrily lashed out at people who were checking their phones while he preached “the Word of God.”

It wasn’t just a quick jab, either. It was long, uncomfortable, and bristling with an undercurrent of rage.

My wife and I were in complete agreement after walking out of that service. Something was wrong with that guy.

Continue Reading

How do you stay sober-minded? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

“The trouble with the Christian life is that it’s so doggone daily.” – Anonymous

Anyone can be a decently focused person for a day. But a lifetime? Here in America, Jesus would call most of us seeds sown among thorns. “. . . the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” – Matthew 13:22

In the past 12 months, I’ve worked more than my fair share of 60-70 hour workweeks. Not every week was like that. But the majority have been.

On top of that, I have a 3-year old who just started sleeping through the night for the first time in her life. So, my brain is now programmed to wake up 3,857,395 times per night for no reason. The result?

I feel worn out.

Yet Christ demands radical, heart-level obedience every day. No matter what.

When I’m tired, I don’t feel like working hard. I want a bit of, “Me time.” I don’t always by nature want a bit of, “God time.”

That is the evil programmed into us. The Bible calls it our “sinful flesh,” (Romans 8:3) or in places, “earthly nature.” (Colossians 3:5) 

We tend toward selfish desires. And part of what makes those selfish desires evil is that they fail to satisfy us.

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Should we love the law? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

“In the way of your testimonies I delight

    as much as in all riches.

I will meditate on your precepts

    and fix my eyes on your ways.

I will delight in your statutes;

    I will not forget your word.” – Psalm 119:14-16

When my high-school teacher had me read her favorite section of Scripture, Psalm 119, I rolled my eyes and said, “How can anyone feel this way? Why would anyone love the law?”

She said, “Psalm 119 is the longest psalm of all—longer even than some entire books of the Bible—and it’s a massive poetic meditation on the beauty of God’s law. The Bible is celebrating the law, so we should celebrate it, too.”

From what I’d been taught, the law was what shows us how badly we mess up. (Romans 3:19) The law is the reason we’re going to die. (Genesis 3) The law is something that, in a way, incites evil in us. (Romans 7:8) At the time, it did not to make sense to celebrate the law.

“No, that’s not for us,” I said. “We’re under the new covenant. Back then, maybe. But the law stinks now. It’s bad.”

To encounter someone modern who said what the ancient Psalmists say—it was bizarre. I honestly felt she was some sort of alien. She was deeply emotionally moved by that psalm. Yet when I read it, I felt nothing.

That frightened me, because I trusted she was a Christian, and wondered what was wrong in my life that I didn’t feel like she did.

In the end, I wrote it off that it was because she was naïve, and that I was enlightened.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Does my pain have a purpose? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

In early 2018, I got a phone call that stopped my breath. “Something’s wrong,” my dad said. “We need to visit your brother. Will you come?”

How could I not?

When we got to his apartment, we found angels finger-painted on the windows, blinds hanging broken, and all the appliances arranged in circles in the garage. The sink was filled with water, and broken glass clogged the drain. There was nothing in the fridge.

But there was my older brother, standing at the counter, talking in the third person about himself, claiming that he (“we”) had three wives and that he (“we”) could make electronics invincible by running them under the water.

We were terrified. Had he developed schizophrenia? Had he been getting into drugs without us knowing and triggered an episode of psychosis—a break from reality? But that didn’t seem to make sense because he had never been like that.

As the ambulance drove him away, we prayed and wept.

In the ensuing weeks, we were forced to drop everything to battle for his health.

For a full month he stayed in the hospital, and the doctor told us that he had been suffering from undiagnosed bipolar mood disorder. The stresses had piled on top of each other and triggered a full break from reality.

My brother, essentially, was stuck dreaming awake. He had been experiencing such emotional pain that his body had to do something drastic to protect him. We had no idea if he’d break out of it. Some people never do.

This was without a doubt the most painful and frightening period of my life.

But the worst part about it was realizing that I had a part to play in his suffering.

He’d told me months earlier that he had been experiencing intense emotional pain, but I didn’t do anything about it because he’d said things like that before. But I knew, in my spirit, that if I had taken him more seriously and encouraged him to go to the hospital, he might not have been forced onto the brink of death.

It haunted me. It still does.

I kept wondering: Does this pain have a purpose? Please, Lord, let there be a reason.

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Do I Need Rest? – A Sabbath Selah Devotional

I woke up about a week ago at 4:00am, wired awake by the sense that an ominous doom was hanging over me. I felt like my life was going to end, and that I desperately needed to do something about it. The only problem was that nothing was wrong.

It’s clear I was experiencing anxiety from working too much and resting too little. But I don’t just mean rest in the sense of “physical sleep.”

In Genesis, after God created the world and everything in it, he took a full day to rest with Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:2-3). This was the origin of the Sabbath. And they obviously weren’t sleeping all day long.

In the New Testament, Jesus said that man was not created for the Sabbath, but rather the Sabbath was created for man (Mark 2:27). It was, and always will be, a gift. Even before our fall into sin.

How much more, then, should we embrace a weekly rhythm of work and rest in our broken bodies? It should go without saying that we need rest. But the types of rest we make time for is important.

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The Life of Christ

Christ is a scarlet thread woven through the tapestry of humanity. We’re his because the needle has pierced us like nails in his hands. And he’s pierced us as part of his perfect design. A picture we can’t see, yet still believe glorifies him. The blank space and the red lines together. Those who bow willingly and those whose legs will be broken. The believers and the non-believers who’ll confess together, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Christ offers us comfort and pain, two in one. A life in its fullness, not one that’s numb. If there’s no pain in beauty, there’s not beauty enough. And the struggles aren’t worthy if they’re not deep enough.

Because the loss of love makes his love sweeter still. Because he chose us, and keeps us, and sings us to sleep. And he dances over us, and kisses us, showing love complete.

The life of Christ is whole, not partial. Don’t settle for a caricature. Find him, cling to him. Let everything else fade. The only life that’s real enough is life in his Name.

Glory to God, forever, amen. Let us fade, and our wills ever bend to the gravity of his Son.

10 Facts You Might Not Know About the Story of the Tower of Babel

When I first heard the story of the Tower of Babel as a kid, it took everything in me to not burst out laughing. I mean, come on. Some guy named Nimrod builds a tower that he thinks is going to reach to the heavens (what a nimrod) and God punishes him? That’s funny.

But is that really the story? Ho-ho! Upon closer look, we see that’s not quite what happened! And neither is the story any laughing matter. So, let’s dive through 10 facts you might not know about the story of the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis:

1. The entire account of the Tower of Babel is in Genesis 11:1-9, but additional details and references are found from Genesis 9 through Genesis 11:26. There’s WAY too much here for just one point, so suffice it to say that to get a true understanding of the events in Genesis 11:1-9, you have to dig deep and cross-reference the surrounding Scripture text heavily. Because Genesis is written as what seems to be a poetic historical account, the events of the flood in Genesis 6-9 directly impact the events of the Tower of Babel. As do the troubles between Noah and his children, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In addition, the text of Genesis 9 through Genesis 11 is not perfectly chronological. Noah’s death is talked about in Genesis 9, and yet Noah was alive during the events of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11. This is part of the reason why we have to read carefully, and cross-reference often, to make sense of the nuanced details in the story.

2. The story of the Tower of Babel wouldn’t have happened without Noah getting drunk in Genesis 9. In Genesis 9:18-29, we are given a general overview of the breakdown of Noah’s family, and the end of Noah’s life. Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk, then gets naked (that’s weird), and his son Ham sees him naked and ridicules him to the family. Noah wakes up, hears what happened, and curses Ham’s lineage instead of directly cursing Ham, because as a prophet of God, Noah doesn’t presume to curse whom God has blessed (Genesis 9:1). This curse splits the family, and Noah’s failure to be a spiritual leader in his family is part of what allows the events of the tower of Babel to happen, because the Tower was most likely a religious structure made to aid in the worship of the celestial bodies (i.e. sun, stars, moon, and stuff). If Noah had not allowed a schism in his family, he would have been more capable of speaking against occurrences of idolatry. Seeing this connection, along with the next point, was what gave rise to the plot for my full-length novelization of the story titled, BABEL: The Story of the Tower and the Rebellion of Man.

3. Noah was almost certainly alive during the events of the tower of Babel. This blew my mind. In Genesis 9:28-29, we’re told that Noah lived 350 years after the flood, and died when he was 950 years old (his bunions must have been downright epic). If we flip ahead to Genesis 11:10, we find several VERY interesting clues that help us piece together a reasonably accurate timeline. Shem’s son Arpachshad (what a mouthful) was born two years after the flood. If we assume that every descendant afterward is a father-son relationship (meaning that there’s no skipping generations—which we see evidence of in other genealogies in Scripture), we end up finding out that a guy named Peleg was born 101 years after the flood. We’re also told Peleg lived 239 years, so he died 340 years after the flood (ten years before Noah died). We’re also told in the mirrored genealogy in Genesis 10 that the earth was “divided” in Peleg’s lifetime. We know that this doesn’t refer to a continental divide, or the flood, because the flood happened 101 years before Peleg was born, and a continental divide would have caused worldwide flooding again (which God promised to never do). The only other divide we’re told about in Scripture is the divide in languages and countries from the events at the Tower of Babel. Thus, we can safely assume Noah was alive during the events of the tower of Babel.

4. Abram could have been alive during the events of the tower of Babel, and was definitely alive during Noah’s lifetime. Following the timeline given in Genesis 11 (along with the assumption we already talked about in point 3 above), we see that Abram was born 292 years after the flood. This is 58 years before Noah died, and 48 years before Peleg died. It’s therefore reasonable to assume that Abram could have both known about (or been present at) the Tower of Babel event, and that he could have been directly discipled by Noah himself, learning about the beginning of the universe and the world’s greatest cataclysm from someone who had experienced the violent baptism of the world first-hand. In addition, Noah’s father, Lamech, could have known Seth (Adam’s son), and gotten a second-hand account of the garden of Eden. Not hard to see how an accurate oral tradition about the beginnings of the universe could have been passed down to Abram’s lineage and written in some form in his day (because they definitely had Semitic cuneiform writing back during the Tower of Babel days).

5. The Tower of Babel story could have happened anywhere from 101 years after the flood, to 340 years after the flood. This is interesting for several reasons. The closer the events were to the timing of the flood, the more we question what in the world Noah was doing during the events of the Tower of Babel. Why wasn’t the prophet of God stopping the world from gathering in rebellion against God with blatant idolatry? This was the provocative “What-if” question that gave rise to my novel, BABEL: The Story of the Tower and the Rebellion of Man, which is (you guessed it) largely about Noah’s involvement (and failure) in the events at the Tower of Babel. But in addition to that, we can also see that the population size could have varied widely, from a thousand or so people, to tens of thousands of people.

6. Just like the hundreds of flood myths in myriad cultures around the world, there are countless myths about the confusion of the world’s languages. Many of these language myths arose through oral tradition in areas that were untouched by the biblical text, which strongly indicates that there was a real event that spawned the disparate accounts. Some of the accounts include an Australian myth that attributes the language split to cannibalism, an African tale where madness struck people during a famine and they all spoke different languages and scattered, and a Polynesian tale that talks of a God who, in his fury, scattered the builders of a tower, broke its foundation, and made the builders speak in many different languages. Pretty crazy, right?

7. It’s likely Nimrod didn’t build Babel OR the Tower. In fact, it’s almost certain that Nimrod didn’t build either, though he was likely involved in the process. We’re told in Genesis 10:9 that Nimrod was primarily a hunter (a man of violence), and that the “beginning of his kingdom” was Babel, among other cities, before he went and built Nineveh, among others. If he built Babel, it likely would’ve said so there. In addition, the actual account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 cites that the people communally said to one another, “let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens.” There was no one person who was commanding the building, but rather a group deciding in unison. Again, Nimrod could have been involved in this process. Or, he could have come to power afterward.

8. The trinity was involved at the events of the Tower of Babel. Traditional interpretation of Genesis 11, and God’s words saying, “Let us go down and see the tower” that mankind had built, is that Jesus, God (Yahweh), and the Holy Spirit were present and involved in the event. This makes sense with our New Testament understanding of the trinity for several reasons. First, Jesus is the Word, and his relation to God’s spoken revelation is inseparable throughout Scripture. Second, the world was created through Jesus (John 1:3), so he and the Holy Spirit are shown as involved in everything God has done from the beginning (“Spirit hovered over the face of the waters”). We also know the Holy Spirit’s involvement in human speech is profound from the account at Pentecost in the Book of Acts, which seems to be a sort of divine symbolic reversal of the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. Furthermore, if God was speaking in the plural to beings unified with him and who needed to be involved at the Tower, he would have been speaking to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If God took a physical form in some way, traditional interpretation says that it would likely have been as a humanoid prefigurement of the Christ. Now we’re getting kinda “out there,” but this is important because we can then see Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in this ancient, Old Testament story, along with links to their work in the New Testament church and the covenant we have with God under Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. Because Noah was a type of Adam. The world began anew with him through the baptism of the world. And we know that Christ is the last Adam, the undoing of Adam’s mistakes, and that his baptism is by the Spirit, not by water, which only pointed ahead to the baptism we experience through Christ’s blood. Baptism came to represent the death of the old world because of the literal destruction of the old world through water at the almighty hand of God. In this way, we see powerful symbolic connections and importance layered into the Tower of Babel story, and the lives of those involved.

9. The tower of Babel was likely finished when the languages were confused. In Genesis 11:5, it says God went down to see the city and the tower which the children of man “had built.” In addition, In Genesis 11:8, it claims God spread them out from there over the face of the earth, and that the people left off building the city (but not the tower, which implies the tower was already finished).

10. For the last time, the Tower of Babel story is NOT about technological advancement. Baked bricks were no new technology. In fact, though modern sociologists who don’t hold the Bible to be trustworthy often say that iron-working didn’t exist until much later, the Bible claims that in the first couple generations of humanity’s existence (long before the flood), humanity was building cities, creating pipe and stringed instruments, forging bronze and iron, and cultivating livestock (Genesis 4:19-22). So, we know that brick-making and using mortar were no great technological advancements. Especially after reminding ourselves that Noah (who was still alive) built the world’s largest wooden boat, waterproofed it with pitch, and survived the greatest cataclysm to ever strike the earth. The point of the story of the Tower of Babel is to illustrate man’s pride (wanting to make a name for themselves separate from their identity as children of God – i.e. “children of man”), along with man’s tendency toward idolatry, and God’s unlimited power coupled with his mercy and gentleness. The confusion of languages was a brilliant, non-violent way of disrupting their prideful plans. All in all, however, this story is a fascinating view into human nature, family dynamics, mankind’s purpose and ambition, and God’s personhood. If you want a more detailed historical study on the Tower of Babel, check out Bodie Hodge’s book, Tower of Babel, which is a careful study of the historical details, and which is endorsed by Answers in Genesis.

Before working on the full-length novelization of the story of the Tower of Babel (BABEL: The Story of the Tower and the Rebellion of Mankind), I didn’t know any of this. This is part of the reason why I love writing biblical fiction. It drives me back to the text of the Bible in a way nothing else does. I hope reading it does the same for you! Blessings, and thanks for reading. And if you want to pick up a copy of the book, you can do so here: GET BABEL NOW 

The Psalm Series launch (READ CHAPTER 1 HERE FREE)!

I am SO excited to announce that, along with two other talented authors of biblical fiction, I’m launching a new series of short biblical fiction novels based on the psalms, called The Psalm Series. To see more about the books, and to pre-order them all, go to psalmseries.com.

Each author picked one psalm and wrote their story around that psalm. Each book also comes with an in-depth Bible study of the psalm in question, along with tips on how to engage deeper with Scripture. In July, we will also be offering a free devotional based on the psalms, to help you deepen your Scripture engagement and prayer life.

The book I’m contributing to the series is a fantasy parable based on Psalm 23 (perhaps the most recognizable of all the psalms). The book takes the imagery of the psalm and turns it into an actual story. Here’s the Psalm as it reads in the English Standard Version:

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
    forever.[g]

AND HERE IS THE FIRST CHAPTER from the book (releasing July–up for pre-order now), titled The Hunter and the Valley of Death: A Parable of Surrender – Psalm 23.

PRE-ORDER HERE (https://psalmseries.com/)

 

C H A P T E R 1

“I’ll be yours forever.

Just tell me you’ll always be with me. Continue Reading

FLOOD released today!

Finally, the day I’ve been looking forward to for over 8 months!

FLOOD has been a serious labor of love. It’s my best work yet, and so far readers are saying they can’t put it down. If you want to read a book that comes fast and furious, yet lingers with you for days, pick up your copy today on Amazon for just $2.99, or read for free through Kindle Unlimited. 

Here’s the sales copy:

“What if the story of Noah and the ark isn’t what you thought it was? What if, instead of being a story about God’s judgment, it’s actually one of the most powerful illustrations of God’s mercy? Continue Reading